Pregnant women of color experience disempowerment by health care providers


Study finds health care providers need more training in power differentials, informed consent and providing respectful care.

Study finds health care providers need more training in power differentials, informed consent and providing respectful care.Lidor/Flickr

A new study finds that women of color perceive their interactions with doctors, nurses and midwives as being misleading, with information being “packaged” in such a way as to disempower them by limiting maternity healthcare choices for themselves and their children.

“Given the significant birth-related disparities faced by women of color, particularly black women, this study illuminates a previously undescribed aspect of the patient-provider interaction,” said University of Washington assistant professor Molly Altman, lead author of the study published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

“How providers shared or didn’t share appropriate information about options, risks and possible outcomes was perceived as biased and dependent on whether providers saw them as individuals capable of making good decisions,” said Altman. Now at the UW School of Nursing, Altman conducted the research while a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Francisco as part of its California Preterm Birth Initiative.

The study participants said that while they wanted complete, truthful and comprehensive information about their care and options available, they felt information was “packaged” in a way that reflected what the provider thought the patient should do, based on bias, and was “disrespectful.”

One participant said she felt like her providers were “harassing” and “bullying” her to get tests she didn’t want. Another said she wanted to “do a little bit more research” into vaccinations before getting them for her children, and said her provider “was like, ‘Well, I thought that you cared about your children. But if that’s not the case, then feel free to go.'”

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